The cat’s out of the bag. The game is up. The jig (or better yet — the gig) is also up. The worst kept secret that never really was a secret is intentionally out. Yes, it’s true: Dance hall days are coming back!
You see, a handful of us local ex, former, old and current musician-types have been meeting local expert museum-types weekly for over a year now. And in addition to scarfing Timbits, we have been actually planning something special.
Even if you are too young to have rocked out back in the dance hall days, it the best time you never had.
Us lucky ones basked in the glow of the red, blue and yellow stage lights reflecting back onto the packed wooden dance floors; we surfed on 100-decibel waves coming from Fender guitars and Ludwig drums, and we lifted our girlfriends on our shoulders and danced with unembarrassed abandon whenever the band played the classic Jackie Wilson song Higher and Higher.
Well, some of us height-and-strength-challenged guys didn’t do the lift, but a lot of the braver guys and girls did, that’s for sure.
See, this was back in the Stone Age when you had to be 21-years-old to get into adult beverage establishments, which was not a bad thing on account of it meant that places like the venerable Varsity Hall at Sylvan Lake and the funky Moose Hall in Innisfail and a bunch of cool, far out places in our own fair town could exist.
Places with names like the Chat Noir, The Happening, The Strobe Light, the Junior Activities Building (later known as the Creative Arts Building), and the 100 Foot Hall (which was officially the I.O.O.F. Hall that really was about 100 feet long and about 20 feet wide and had a coffin with a skeleton hidden under the stage. Not kidding.).
And although many teenaged dance hall devotees made their own pre-parties with various beverages, etc., in friend’s basements, nearby fields, and parked cars before the dance, it was the hall and the music and the bands and many attractive members of the opposite gender that really made the Friday night, Saturday night or Sunday Midnight Frolic dances something special and something that really defined the era.
An era where the guys’ job was to grow their hair as long as possible, and the girls’ job was to wear the shortest skirts possible. An era when cars had chrome instead of plastic, and the road boats were cool and groovy and didn’t look like every other car on the road.
A time when you’d pull into the A&W and a cute girl in brown and orange uniform would hang a tray of hamburgers and chips and thick glass root beer mugs that weighed 15 pounds each on the half-open driver’s window of said road boat.
A time when infamous Red Deer bands like The Drifters, Easy Street, SAM, Bedford Page, Six Pak and Gaetz Avenue Dance Band drove around lugging U-Hauls or driving converted band buses and played the music that people loved and listened to in the Comp parking lot before class on car radios tuned to the CJCA Hit Parade, or 630 CHED with episodes of The Chicken Man.
Well, “here they come again” as the Dave Clarke Five used to sing.
You may have noticed, and if you haven’t perhaps you should check your pulse, that this year is the 100th year anniversary of the incorporation of Dead Rear as a city. And as such, many interesting and celebratory type events are taking place throughout 2013. This is wherein of I speak, so to speak.
It’s called the Rock & Roll Reunion at the Rink, and as we used to say: “Be there or be square!” Well, I’ve never actually said that, and you probably haven’t either, but somebody must have said it sometime because it’s right there on the poster.
It’s a real actual “arena gig” — kind of like the Crawdaddy Rock Festival that was held at the Red Deer Arena somewhere in the late 1960s when many of us were just little children, only this time it’s at the newly renovated curling rink, and it’s even better.
The idea is this: How about getting a bunch of the original members of original bands that originally played in Red Deer during the formative musical years of 1960 to 1975.
How about they practise up some of those timeless popular tunes from those years and throw a big dance hall arena dance to celebrate the centennial of our fair town.
How about the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery sponsor the big event, and the bands all donate all the proceeds back to a great cause like the museum.
So after 12 or 14 months of planning, several thousand Timbits and several thousand decisions, the Rock & Roll Reunion at the Rink is officially rockin’.
The RRRR kicks off the Red Deer Centennial Homecoming Weekend on the Friday night of the July long weekend.
Weren’t Fridays your favourite days, and weren’t long weekends your favourite weekends? Well this is going to be some long weekend — full of events and food and lights on the river and rockin’ at the rink.
Why am I telling you all this now — when spring hasn’t even sprung like it’s supposed to and summer seems several thousand light years away?
Because the July long is a busy time and people are making plans already, and tickets are already going fast, and I personally wouldn’t want you to miss the dance hall days revival reunion whether you were actually there in the day or you missed it on account of you were born at the wrong time.
I will give you all the gory details down the long and winding road, but meantime, tickets are on sale at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery and on their website, reddeermuseum.com.
And this gives you enough time to practise the Higher and Higher girl-on-the-guy’s-shoulders manoeuvre with your BH.
We’ll make sure we play it for you.
Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, award-winning author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate. His books can be found at Chapters, Coles and Sunworks in Red Deer.